A reader recently asked for a sample sermon that she could not find in the book. I think she was referring to the wedding homily, which I only discussed briefly (page 50) and called "Words of advice to the wedding couple."
Ministers and priests call this a wedding homily. Merriam-Webster defines a homily as a "short sermon."
Short is good. Rev. Michael Curry's wedding sermon to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle was thoughtful and entertaining, but could not be described as short.
When you write your homily, you might talk about how the couple should give each other the benefit of the doubt, be slow to anger and quick to forgive -- all the stuff that makes for a good marriage. Often, priests and ministers also use this as an opportunity to talk about teachings from scriptures and spiritual leaders, or the value of the church.
Here are some other homilies, and another, to get you started.
You can use whatever pieces of homilies you find, whatever speaks to your heart and your couple -- although I would not use an entire wedding homily from one person.
My friend Dan married a couple last year. For his homily, he began:
Everyone has advice for newlyweds.
X and G, I offer these very sage words of advice:
Always separate lights and darks when washing with hot water!
Whenever you're wrong, admit it.
Whenever you're right, shut up!
When the guests stopped laughing, he recited some lines from a well-loved poem by Wilferd Paterson, "The Art of a Good Marriage." (Here is the poem in its entirety.) By the time he finished reading, no doubt, everyone there wanted to be a better person:
Happiness in marriage is not something that just happens.
A good marriage must be created.
In marriage the little things are the big things.
It is never being too old to hold hands.
It is remembering to say “I love you” at least once a day.
It is never going to sleep angry. . .
It is standing together facing the world. . .
It is speaking words of appreciation
and demonstrating gratitude in thoughtful ways.
It is having the capacity to forgive and forget.
It is giving each other an atmosphere in which each can grow. . .
It is a common search for the good and the beautiful. . .
It is not only marrying the right partner;
it is being the right partner.
The Martha Stewart Weddings editors are sweet to work with! It was fun to chat with Real Weddings intern Elisha Hahm for her blog about ceremony readings that went live this week. She chose some of my favorite readings. Yes, the Anne Bradstreet poem was written nearly four hundred years ago, and it still sounds like love today.
It turns out that Mrs. Bradstreet was a great-great-ever-so-great aunt of mine.
How do you pick readings for your wedding ceremony? I often ask the couple to give me three adjectives to describe the ceremony they envision. So if a couple agrees on, “theatrical, romantic, and upbeat” or “intimate, simple, and brief,” these provide two very different tones. I listen for the tone that they want, which guides me to the types of readings I might present to them.
Interestingly, children's literature is gaining popularity in weddings. More people are choosing excerpts of the book by Dr. Seuss: Oh, The Places You’ll Go! I've also heard part of The Little Prince, where the fox explains why he loves his rose. And the part about becoming Real from The Velveteen Rabbit. These readings can touch an audience deeply because we might remember reading them as children.
Here's an interesting alternative to the standard reading: A handful of guests can rise and read brief passages, like definitions of marriage, or blessings for the couple. Tell your family members and friends ahead of time to write a line or two and bring it with them. In a wedding between a Jewish groom and his Chinese bride, each of their parents read meaningful proverbs about marriage in either Yiddish or Mandarin.
Here are some thoughts about weddings, writing, and the world. Enjoy.